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Exploring Middle-earth

Not so dissimilar from JRR Tolkien’s magical world in The Hobbit, Malawi’s picturesque Liwonde National Park, with the Shire River snaking through it, bursts with life, says Sue Watt
The Shire River flows through Liwonde National Park’s golden floodplains
Credit: Central African Wilderness Safaris

Matthews Matewere has been guiding in Liwonde for 18 years and you’d think he’d have seen it all by now. But even he was mesmerised as our boat bobbed silently in the water right alongside a dozen elephants. For half an hour we stayed there, watching in hushed excitement as they drank from the riverbank just a metre or two away. The baby elephant played with cattle egrets, sweeping at them with a trunk he could barely control: we were so close I could almost count his long and luscious eyelashes.

I noticed clumps of dirt encrusted on the older elephants’ tusks, the tears and holes in their ears, the wrinkles on the matriarch’s face, her wisdom etched within them. The only sounds disturbing the silence were their contented rumblings, their slurping and gurgling, and the occasional click of the camera shutter. “That was awesome,” Matthews whispered, as they eventually moved away. “The elephant were chilled; you were chilled. That truly touched my heart.”

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About Travel Africa

Transfixed by Ethiopia • Lake Kariba • Kolmanskop, Namibia's ghost town • South Africa on a shoestring • Looking for lemurs in Madagascar • Kenya's keepers of the wild • Why Bengweulu is so bewitching • Remote Ruaha • Sail away to St Helena • Chimps in Uganda • Picture-perfect Tuli... and much more!
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